The Izod IndyCar Series is looking to go Hollywood.
With open-wheel racing embroiled in a split between competing factions for much of the last decade, the once-No. 1 American racing sport was overshadowed by stock car’s Nascar.
But now that open-wheel racing has healed its rift and has stars such as the photogenic Danica Patrick, IndyCar is hoping to sharply raise its media profile.
The Indianapolis-based league opened an office in Santa Monica this month and named movie producer and former Nascar executive Sarah Nettinga to head operations. The league also hired William Morris Endeavor Entertainment to help create original programming.
“My priority is to reignite the fan base,” said Nettinga, who was named senior vice president of media and entertainment. “We have to try to get back the 10 to15 million fans that we lost in the split of the sport.”
Nettinga most recently worked as an independent producer, and prior to that helped Nascar in its efforts to gain exposure for the league beyond weekend racing. She has a producer credit on the film “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” a 2006 comedy about a fictional Nascar driver. She also worked as an executive in charge of production on a Nascar television series and an “E True Hollywood” story about driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., among other productions.
Nettinga admitted she’s never attended an IndyCar race, but she noted that she had never attended a Nascar race before being hired by that league.
“It’s an asset for me. I see racing as a consumer and not as a fan. I have two people on my staff that are IndyCar fans. I can unveil some projects that as a first-timer may make new fans excited for the sport,” she said, declining to be specific.
Open-wheel racing was unified under the Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc. body until 1996 when a group of owners who wanted fewer road races – led by Indy500 owner Tony George – split over the direction of the sport. In 2008, the two factions united the sport as the IndyCar Series.
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